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Censorship Businesses Apple

Apple Balks, Finally Relents, At Possible User Queries of Dictionary App 259

Posted by timothy
from the my-dictionary-doesn't-even-list-the-****ing-word dept.
Geoffrey.landis writes with a snippet from CNET reporting another example of offputting treatment at Apple's App Store: "'In this case, it's a dictionary app called Ninjawords (so called because ninjas are 'smart, accurate, and really fast') that was rejected three times over the course of two months, mostly because 'objectionable' words could be looked up and found in the dictionary's search function, Gruber reported.' PCWorld also reports the story." Note that the app was eventually approved, but only after a few go-rounds and changes.
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Apple Balks, Finally Relents, At Possible User Queries of Dictionary App

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  • censor overlord (Score:3, Insightful)

    by parallel_prankster (1455313) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @05:56PM (#28963995)
    I for one welcome our new censoring . Switching to google android in 5 4 3 2 1.... complete
  • Great... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by hezekiah957 (1219288) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @05:56PM (#28963997)
    So now I'll just have to Safari to look up the meanings of dirty words.
  • Anyone care? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sakdoctor (1087155) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @05:59PM (#28964027) Homepage

    Does anyone actually care about these apple app stories?

    Users and devs both know what their getting into, when they jumped on apples' locked down platform.
    Everything that followed was inevitable.

  • by Tsiangkun (746511) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @06:00PM (#28964037) Homepage
    Is the solution to censor the applications to which adults have access, or is the solution for parents not to give expensive iPhones to their immature children ?
  • by santax (1541065) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @06:02PM (#28964061)
    To be honest, I think apple's core business (with the iphone and ipod) is primarly targeted at childeren, teens and young adults... Allthough I fully agree with you, I don't think this going to happen.
  • Relents? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jpmorgan (517966) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @06:03PM (#28964077) Homepage
    If you RTFA, it says the app wasn't approved until the 'objectionable' words were removed from the dictionary. And then it was slapped with a 17+. But I'm a charitable fellow, so I'll give Apple the benefit of the doubt and assume that the 17+ rating was a dadaist statement on literacy and education in 21st century America.
  • Re:Good to see (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Archon V2.0 (782634) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @06:04PM (#28964081)

    some people still think about the children.

    Absolutely. Don't want a kid hearing anything objectionable! In the interests of reaching this wonderful, Utopian, and completely achievable goal, I suggest we also ban children from all other sources of possible profanity, such as:
    using the Internet,
    playing video games,
    watching TV,
    going outside,
    being around strangers,
    being around their parents and other relatives, and
    being around all other children, those vile little deviants.

  • Re:Anyone care? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Gizzmonic (412910) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @06:06PM (#28964111) Homepage Journal

    This is a pattern. A very boring pattern. I prefer the Penrose pattern stamped into a square of Quilted Northern.

  • by amplt1337 (707922) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @06:07PM (#28964137) Journal

    ...and does anybody think these kids don't already know all the dirty words anyway?

  • Re:Good to see (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jimshatt (1002452) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @06:10PM (#28964179)
    Also, remove 'objectionable' body parts...
  • by Hatta (162192) * on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @06:11PM (#28964197) Journal

    The solution is to tell Apple to fuck the hell off.

  • Re:Good to see (Score:3, Insightful)

    by HungryHobo (1314109) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @06:12PM (#28964215)

    don't forget objectionable thoughts, lobotomies for all!

  • by rolfwind (528248) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @06:14PM (#28964243)

    Maybe they should kick out the iPhones browser, since much more naughty things than words can be looked up.

    Or maybe should realize that the people using their phones don't need any more handholding than the people who USED to use AOL for internet access. Just because Steve Jobs became a power within Disney doesn't mean the iPhone should be forcing the cute n cuddly Disney experience on its owners.

  • by NotQuiteReal (608241) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @06:14PM (#28964247) Journal
    If someone is looking up a word, don't they already know about it?

    If it is a "bad" word, the dictionary ought to tell you, in addition to the definition, that it is not a polite word.

    Even my paper dictionary has "fuck" in it. My kids know all the "bad" words, and they know when not to use them (when their mother is around.)

    Does the iPhone prevent them from browsing urbandictionary.com?
  • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @06:16PM (#28964285) Homepage Journal

    Apple isn't just the new Microsoft. Apple is the new Mary Whitehouse and Thomas Bowdler.

  • by Jeremy Erwin (2054) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @06:25PM (#28964425) Journal

    The only possible justification for parental controls is give the easily offended an outlet for the ridiculous demands they make on the rest of society. Don't like something? Censor it yourself.

    Parental Controls in addition to baseline level of bowdlerism is just absurd.

  • Re:Good to see (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iamhigh (1252742) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @06:27PM (#28964463)
    Exactly.... I want my child to see as much of the world as possible. Look at the starving kids in Africa, look how stupid that guy looks when yelling profanities (and watch how I better handle the situation), look at the "gross" and "objectionable". And read every damn book that has ever been banned.

    The only way to raise a properly educated, informed, and morally "good" kid is to introduce them to the horrors of the world and let them decide what actions and materials are best for their life. If they have never seen the bad, they cannot appreciate the good.
  • Android = Open (Score:5, Insightful)

    by blackfrancis75 (911664) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @06:44PM (#28964705)
    Wow, dozens of comments so far on this one and I'm the first smug G1 owner to point out how open the Android system is. Did I mention it was open? open, open, open
  • Wellll, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @06:49PM (#28964775) Homepage Journal

    If Apple were to get away with censorship, and no one complained, who might follow Apple's example? Maybe the Bing-a-lings who run Microsoft? And, if no one objects to MS censoring what MS customers can see on the net, then who is next?

    Yeah, I know, lots of people don't buy the slippery slope arguments. Buy it or not, give it some thought.

    The developers who are fighting Apple on this are doing us all a service, believe it or not.

  • by EvanED (569694) <evaned@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @06:51PM (#28964797)

    Who appointed Apple to be the legal guardian and nanny of iPhone users?

    To be fair, the iPhone users did.

    Which is why I don't have an iPhone.

  • Re:Anyone care? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mdwh2 (535323) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @06:53PM (#28964821) Journal

    Developers should indeed know better, but I think a lot of people don't know what they're getting into. It's only through publicising stories like this that people will realise and go elsewhere.

    This is a very worrying issue - whilst Apple are a niche player, imagine if they did end up becoming a monopoly on mobile platforms? Mobile computing is going to become ubiquitous in the next few years, and I'm very worried at any possibility of it being locked down and controlled by a single company, who could arbitrary decide what applications are allowed, or dictate whatever changes or censorship it liked. This sort of thing can't have enough publicity, just to minimise the risk of this happening. People need to support the many open alternatives whilst there's still a market.

    The worrying thing is that it's on a traditionally anti-censorship site like Slashdot that support for the Iphone seems to be strongest.

  • by mdwh2 (535323) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @07:02PM (#28964943) Journal

    You are missing the point - the big problem is that Iphone can only use software that is on the app store, therefore Apple's decisions on what's allowed on the store are equivalent to Apple deciding what apps are allowed on the platform, and that is the issue. No one cares about simply not being hosted on a store.

    Now sure, Apple are still free to make a locked down platform if the like. Equally, people are free to criticise Apple for doing so. And yes, not buy their Iphone - and how will people know not to buy the Iphone? That's right, with stories like this.

    No, you don't get to decide what goes in my journal. But if Slashdot decide to disallow naughty words - whilst that would be their "right" - people would clearly still have the right to criticise them over that decision. No one's claiming that Apple don't have a legal right - that's a straw man. Saying "But but, they have a right" could apply to most of the stories that make Slashdot (or the news in general). Most of the time, that's not the issue.

  • Re:Good to see (Score:5, Insightful)

    by shutdown -p now (807394) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @07:02PM (#28964947) Journal

    Exactly.... I want my child to see as much of the world as possible. Look at the starving kids in Africa, look how stupid that guy looks when yelling profanities (and watch how I better handle the situation), look at the "gross" and "objectionable". And read every damn book that has ever been banned.

    That's all good, but... goatse?

  • Re:Wellll, (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jc42 (318812) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @07:26PM (#28965255) Homepage Journal

    This guy is free to register ninjawords.com and put up his dictionary as a web application ...

    My immediate thought was that if I were developing a dictionary app, I'd simply (simply? Hah! ;-) include a feature that allows for downloading dictionary "modules" from the Web. And I'd document the files' formats.

    Of course, the first thing many users would download would be the "naughty words" module. But my justification would be something different. There are all sorts of specialized sub-dialects of English that use specialized jargon. Computer software is one. Medicine is another (with a tree of sub-specialties). World of Warfare is another. There are zillions of them. Just imagine how useful it could be if the people dealing with a specialty with its own jargon could provide a dictionary module to everyone in their field. That would be a prime selling point of a dictionary.

    The program itself probably wouldn't even come with a built-in dictionary. Instead, it could read a "basic English" module that lacks all the objectionable words, as well as the huge stock of words most people have never heard. Then it would contact a list of known dictionary-module sites, and present the modules to the user as a checklist. If they want the dirty-word module, they can check it. If they want the fly-fishing-jargon or the Hello-Kitty module, they can check it.

    Nobody in any software store would have any reason to object to my basic distribution. And I wouldn't be responsible for the words or definitions on some obscure web site that I've never heard of.

    It could also be a useful approach for dictionaries in other languages, too. Just make sure it supports Unicode, and other people could start setting it up themselves.

    (OTOH, there's wiktionary.org, which could probably do something similar today. Dunno how easy it would be to make an excerpt for just one or two languages, though.)

  • by HTH NE1 (675604) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @07:29PM (#28965283)

    Who appointed Apple to be the legal guardian and nanny of iPhone users?

    I was going to say Jennipher Dickens, except Apple was applying rejection terms to applications from the start before Baby Shaker(*) made it to the store. But I think you can hold her responsible for the ramping up of the rules.

    And the kinds of rejections we see now indicate to me that there are people on the approval panel inside Apple protesting these rules by making these sorts of ridiculous rejections to pressure Apple with bad press to let up.

    (*) And a misunderstood "game" it was: it intended to educate that it is very easy to kill a baby with very little shaking, so don't shake them! Better to learn that lesson safely on your iPhone than with a real baby! A shame the publisher is too cowed to explain it.

  • by Facegarden (967477) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @07:43PM (#28965485)

    This summary is way too forgiving!

    Apple went crazy with this one, far more than they have before.

    The summary says: "Note that the app was eventually approved, but only after a few go-rounds and changes."

    Yeah, the few go-rounds and changed included *Completely removing* words apple didn't like, including the word "ass" among other things.

    Note that the developer already went out of their way on the very first version of the program to prevent offensive words from coming up as suggestions for other things - i.e. typing "fuc" did not bring up "fuck" as a suggestion, you had to already know a profane word in order to see its definition.

    Apple still rejected it even with those modifications, and didn't approve it until certain words were completely removed, including fuck, shit, etc AND the developer had to give their program a 17+ age rating!

    This goes beyond apple's normal bullshit into a whole new level of bullshit.
    -Taylor

  • Re:Great... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Enderandrew (866215) <enderandrew&gmail,com> on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @07:44PM (#28965497) Homepage Journal

    Apple does not have a monopoly. But for all the specific anti-competitive practices we blast Microsoft for, Apple either matches them, or does worse in many regards.

    What really gets me is when I used to read Matt Asay's supposed blog about FOSS. Repeatedly he would praise people for leaving Microsoft for Apple, Lotus or other proprietary products. In fact, it seemed not a day would go by without him praising what a wonderful company Apple was, again on a blog supposedly focused on FOSS.

  • Re:Good to see (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mqduck (232646) <mqduck@@@mqduck...net> on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @08:37PM (#28965993)

    What's seeing goatse going to do, turn them into sexual deviants? Burglars? Murderers? Liars? Will it even give them nightmares? No, it won't do any of those things. Everyone seems to accept ideas about what kinds of things harm children on faith, without worrying about how.

  • Re:Good to see (Score:4, Insightful)

    by shutdown -p now (807394) on Wednesday August 05, 2009 @09:14PM (#28966331) Journal

    Will it even give them nightmares?

    Actually, it very well might do that.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday August 06, 2009 @02:36AM (#28968647)
    Leave the basement once in a while and you'll meet more people.
  • by WML MUNSON (895262) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @05:51AM (#28969605)

    Exactly.... I want my child to see as much of the world as possible. Look at the starving kids in Africa, look how stupid that guy looks when yelling profanities (and watch how I better handle the situation), look at the "gross" and "objectionable". And read every damn book that has ever been banned.

    That's all good, but... goatse?

    Censoring content such as Goatse may be a well-intended attempt to shield society at-large from the darker alleyways of humanity, but to accomplish this by means of centralizing restrictions on content and communication is very dangerous, as it replaces lost innocence with lost liberty.

  • Re:censor overlord (Score:2, Insightful)

    by nexttech (1289308) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @08:06AM (#28970239)
    I am having a hard time understanding why people are even developing for the iPhone given the restrictions that Apple has put on it. Instead of complaining about it vote with your feet. Put your effort into something that isn't going to censor you.
  • Re:Wellll, (Score:3, Insightful)

    by jc42 (318812) on Thursday August 06, 2009 @08:13PM (#28980901) Homepage Journal

    What'd make even more "sense", though, is to not document to format and sell unoffending specialised modules yourself. ...

    Ah, but you missed my point, which was to be able to say in all innocence that you aren't supplying the things that offend the retailers' or censors' sensibilities. That's being done by other people that have nothing to do with you.

    Actually, I suppose it could be useful to cooperate on the side with the developers of the add-on modules. A true entrepreneur would do this, for a price, and get some handy royalties from all those follow-on sales. But if the bluenose crowd found out, they'd probably be all over you for "aiding and abetting" immorality. If you're really worried about this (as we apparently must be with Apple), the safest approach would be to keep your distance. Document how others can make add-on modules, since that will make your basic product sell better, but don't take part in the add-ons that bring out the people with torches and pitchforks (or control over the retail outlets).

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